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Student Engagement Tips: Getting Students Physically Engaged

Demonstrate with the Body.

Say, “We’re going to do something very
 interesting in just a moment. But first, please stand up.” This raises heart rate 
and arousal states.

Ask your audience to take in a deep breath and let it out
 slowly. Now you, a group leader or assigned person can lead a team, group or
those at a small table in some slow stretching.

Now, take a math problem and ask students to use their hands and body to act 
out the numbers. Use the body to demonstrate connections, links, relationships 
and key ideas. Your body can make a number, a movement or a show a plant,
rock, mineral, cloud or river. They can show prefixes, suffixes or periods (stomp).

Who is Doing the Work?

Any time you have materials to get to the students, 
get lazy. Under 90% or more of the circumstances, your students should be
 passing out papers, materials, handouts or any other item.

Organize this through 1) the team leader 2) a volunteer 3) assigned in-class delivery students 4) a
 quick vote 5) form small impromptu groups, then ask those in them to pick the
“fastest runner” or other fun designation.

In other words, if you want more
 engagement, stop doing the student’s work for them.

Peer Drawings.

They can stand up and use their elbows to draw out a key
word for the lesson. Spell out or they can use their head, knee or toes. This gets
 the epinephrine up!

There are other types of drawings. For example, keep a bag, bowl with some or
 all of the student names on cards or paper slips. The students do a drum roll on
 their tables for added suspense. At a point during each class let one student
 come up to the container and draw out two student names. One of the
 names gets a standing ovation (pure fun!) and the other gets to answer two 
questions from the group and they get one “lifeline” (ask another student, or they
 can look it up on the spot.). The peer pressure is both fun and stressful! If both
 answered correctly, then win a silly prize or favor.

Creative Commons License photo credit: jackdoc101

Musical Arts As An Educational Tool

“Musical arts” or “music-making” means much more than playing music or listening to it. Singing, rap and musicals are also part of the musical arts. In addition, the musical arts include composing music, reading music, analyzing, arranging, notating and creating music.

Neurobiologist Mark Jude Tramo of Harvard Medical School says, “Music is biologically part of human life, just as music is aesthetically part of human life.” Compelling evidence supports the hypothesis that musical arts may provide a positive, significant and lasting benefit to learners. There is no single piece of evidence, but the diversity and depth of supporting material is overwhelming. If this were a court case, the ruling would be music is valuable “beyond reasonable doubt.”

Hard-wired?

Music is part of our biological heritage and is hard-wired into our genes as a survival strategy. If Darwin was right, traits and behaviors which enhance the survival of a species will be selected by nature because they’ll better insure the perpetuation of a species from one generation to the next.

Could the use of music increase survival chances? Cave paintings depicting the use of music go back 70,000 years. Flutes have been found in France dating as far back as 30,000 years. Music, vocalized or played by an individual or sung as social chorus (birds, whales or ape choruses) may have been used to attract a mate. It’s possible others were attracted to those producing louder,better or more pleasing sounds. In addition, music was often used for intra-group communication which increased group safety and identification. Likely, robust vocalization improved notification of pending threat or environmental changes.

Music may be used to increase harmony and social bonding among those playing it or listening to it. Music may have also contributed to changes in the brain (i.e. verbal memory, counting and self-discipline), which may have enhanced survival. And, finally, making music probably strengthened listening skills, certainly a valued trait when hunting game or escaping predators. In fact, the human brain appears to have highly specialized structures for music: For instance, melodic contour, has corresponding brain cells that process it. Other cells in the mammalian auditory cortex have been found that process specific harmonic relationships (Sutter & Schreiner 1991). The rhythmic, temporal qualities have been linked to a specific group of neurons in the auditory cortex.

Music Enhances Cognition

Music-making contributes to the development of essential cognitive systems which include reasoning, creativity, thinking, decision-making and problem-solving. It does this by activating and synchronizing neural firing patterns that orchestrate and connect multiple brain sites. The neural synchrony ensembles increase both the brain’s efficiency and effectiveness. These key systems are well-connected and located in the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes as well as the cerebellum. The strongest studies support the value of music-making in spatial reasoning, creativity and generalized mathematical skills. The activation between family groups of cortical neurons assist the cortex in pattern recognition. (more…)

Student Engagement Tips: Music As A Tool

Music for Call-backs.

A musical deadline can create anticipation. Use a
 set-up song; otherwise known as a cue-signal or “call-back” song to get 
attention for a beginning or start time. This song should have the following
 criteria:

1) it’s short—under 3 minutes

2) it’s has either positive lyrics or no
lyrics,

3) it ends with a clear predictable “pa-dum” and does not trail off,
 fading slowly into the quiet.

Songs like “Pretty Woman” or “Chantilly Lace” can work. Make an agreement that
 everyone must be in their seats, ready to learn before the song ends. Then 
enforce it by walking around the first few times you play it and “rounding up”
everyone so they know you mean it.

Walking Fast to the Music.

Use this as a tool for “mixing” up the
 group. Sometimes a class forms too-familiar “social niches.” This means
 accountability drops because your audience becomes TOO familiar with each 
other. They stick up for and cover for each other, dropping accountability for
 thinking and learning. What’s needed is a vehicle for mixing up the group.

Music can do that because people can “lose themselves” in the music. 
It works this way. Say, “It’s time for a change of pace. Take in a deep breath…
and let it out. Great. Now, please stand up. In 10 seconds, the music will
 begin. When it does, walk away from your chair. You can go anywhere in the
 room quickly until the music stops, then wait for directions.” The directions are 
usually, “Find a neighbor. Hand up if you need a partner. Now, here’s
 who goes first…”

You might do a think-pair-share activity next.

We hope you find these strategies valuable. Please join is at our summer workshop on Tools For Maximum Engagement here. It’s filling fast and is one of our more powerful teacher workshops.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Horia Varlan

Student Engagement Tips: Getting Attention

Better Attentional Sets.

Create some anticipation for students or yourself before speaking. Use a train whistle, gong or party noisemaker. It just has to be fun, short and consistent. Rotate each week to avoid habituation by your students.

Or, whenever someone is ready to speak to your group or class, he or she will use a pre-established activity. Any established call-response can work. As an example, the speaker, before saying a word, will stand up, clap three times and wait. The audience responds with 3 claps and sends, with their hands, a big “whoosh” of positive energy their way. This back and forth exchange tells the audience the teacher is ready to speak, and the audience tells he or she that they are giving both attention and support.

Start-up Call-Response.

These are the auditory-kinesthetic routines that you set up with the class as a way to prepare to learn. It can help get the whole group aligned and put all in a common, excited state of “I can!” Before class, first prepare an overhead or write the call-response on a whiteboard or chalkboard, divided into two columns. One column on the left has the “call” and the right column has the “response.” Ask the whole group to stand and take in a deep breath. Then tell the group that you’ll do the call, they do the response.

Examples include: You say, “Who’s here today?” They respond, “I’m here!” They do this both by sound and by adding the same beat of a foot stomp. You say, “Here for what?” They stomp and say, “To learn and have fun!” You say, “When do we start?” They stomp and say, “Right now!” You say, “How do we start?” They stomp and say, “Work hard, Learn smart!” This simple routine is best done quickly, with high-energy the first time by you so you can role model it.

Join is at our summer workshop on Tools For Maximum Engagement here. It’s filling fast and is one of our more powerful teacher workshops.


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Student Engagement Tips to Try

Each week we’ll publish tips on Sunday to hep jump start and stimulate your classroom. The tips will also demonstrate how simple engagement strategies can pay big dividends in the classroom…

Stop reading information to students.

Give them a role. Every day, multiple students can have the roles of morning announcements, previews of coming attractions or reviewing key points from the day. When they do the reviewing, other students can repeat after them to boost recall.

Instead of you reading it, condense it into a short paragraph. Then show the information, followed by a simple question. For quick recall, use a multiple choice. For more in-depth processing, use open ended Qs. Our frontal lobes release dopamine when we complete challenging problems. It’s nature’s way of
rewarding us for doing well. Plus, the dopamine that is released will then support tasks that require working memory.

Repetitive gross motor movement.

You may have noticed that when you go for a walk, it’s hard to return in a bad mood. Activities that stimulate repetitive gross motor movement include swimming, walking, cycling and marching. In general, it takes from three to ten minutes to get the dopamine going, depending on a host of variables. If students need a “pick-me-up” send them out on a ten-minute walk with a structured positive conversation. They’ll return in better state of mind. Add music to the student’s marching time. Great marching music includes: Anchors away or the Triumphal March (Verdi).

Look on Your Neighbor’s Paper

Many of the tools of engagement are, rightfully so, tools for increased accountability. This one is simple, “Look on to your neighbors paper. If they wrote down all three points we just mentioned, congratulate them and raise your hand.” Or, “Look on to your neighbor’s paper. If they have less than the last three items we’ve just reviewed, tell them what their missing ones are.”

Also, check out our summer workshop on Tools For Maximum Engagement here. It’s filling fast and is one of our more powerful teacher workshops.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Martin Tod

Neuroscience Research: Why Do We Eat WAY More Than We Should?

Why Do We Eat WAY More Than We Should?

What Does the Neuroscience Research Say?

Let’s take a side street from the classroom and go directly into your kitchen and dining room. I thought I would give you the science behind eating and over eating. Would this apply to you?

If you know me, you know I am skinny as a rail. But, while I might make it look easy, it’s NOT! I watch what I eat. I rarely ever eat desserts. I eat no artificial sweeteners, no artificial colorings and rarely any preservatives in my food. On top of that, I go out of my way to avoid so called natural sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup.

All I’ve told you so far is a “no brainer”. But I haven’t told you the most shocking thing yet!

This might surprise you; I DO eat like a pig sometimes (though not usually.)

The question is “How can I get away with it?” And, even more importantly, what can you do to keep the waistline where you want it? I’ll get to the answers in a moment. First, you should know the science behind all the weight gains that adults experience.

At each developmental and maturation age, the body and brain are trying to help you survive. As a female, you don’t need a bit of extra fat at age 10, but by puberty, your body tries to add some, since childbearing is becoming a real possibility. Extra fat helps ensure a food source for the pregnant mom. So why would your body try to add fat when you’re over forty, past the likely childbearing years? The answer is it doesn’t try to do that! If anything, your body is trying to get leaner as you grow into middle age. Baloney you say! So what’s happening?

Here are the top 5 myths and the truth to help you get you back to your slim and sexy self. (Guys, this applies to you, as well!) (more…)